What would you do if you were not afraid of failing?
The other day, when I was mindlessly flipping through my Costco Connection, I read about Brené Brown (a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work) and her latest book Rising Strong. Rising Strong is about daring to be vulnerable and knowing that if you put yourself out there “in the arena” and you are “brave enough, often enough,” eventually you will fall. Brené encourages people to commit wholeheartedly without knowing the outcome and teaches them how to get back in the proverbial saddle after being knocked face down in the sand. Knowing that we will fail eventually but doing something regardless and being able to rise strong even after the hardest of falls – this, according to Brené, is the the key to real “badassery” and ultimately, a “heartfelt life” of love, joy, creativity, and connectedness.
I was intrigued. The article and book (as I later started reading it) struck a chord with me. Admittedly, vulnerability is not my strong suit. I am guilty of wanting to hang out in my comfort zone whenever possible. I am a perfectionist terrified of not doing something good enough. I plan things with the utmost precision out of fear the smallest detail might fall through the cracks. I care about what other people think of me. I do compare myself to others. As a mother, the fear of not doing enough is very real as I often measure the success of a day by how many things I have gotten done and dwell on the things that I haven’t. I, too, get excited about making changes – big or small – but the fear of not knowing all the answers before making a decision has stifled my enthusiasm many times. I am sure a lot of people can relate: The fear of taking on a new project. The fear of changing careers. The fear of quitting. The fear of starting a business. The fear of saying no. The fear of voicing an unpopular opinion. The fear of asking for help. The fear of hurting someone’s feelings. The fear of missing out. The list goes on and on.
So, how do we break away from our fears? How do we allow ourselves to no longer be bound by them? Without having read Rising Strong in its entirety just yet and before you get a chance to read it yourself, I want to share with you a little real life tidbit that might help you open yourself up to being just a little more vulnerable and brave today:
A few days ago, I received a newsletter from my daughter’s elementary school principal. One of the things she mentioned in the newsletter was that the school installed a “buddy bench” last year. The purpose of said bench is “to create an environment that fosters new friendships.” Students that would like to make a new friend sit on the bench in hopes that other students who would also like to make a new friend see them and are encouraged to sit down next to them.
So, imagine a little girl on the playground. She might be as young as six years old. Maybe she is new in town and has not had the courage to talk to the kids in her class yet. Or maybe she is just a little shy. Maybe she feels lonely and sad, possibly ashamed for not having any friends. What would you tell that little girl? Would you advise her to not sit on the bench as she might end up sitting there alone, rejected, disappointed, maybe even mocked? Or would you tell her to sit down anyways, take the chance as she might end up meeting her next best friend? Someone who will make her feel less alone, someone to have fun with, to make school exciting again. Which should she choose? Which would you choose? And which one would you tell your kids to choose?
While keeping this little girl in mind, maybe today you, too, choose courage over comfort. Today, you take a risk and open yourself up to possible failure as it might also offer you the greatest of rewards. Today, you go into that meeting with your head held high and make yourself heard. Today, you overcome your fears and make that big change you have been wanting to make. Today, you go all in and live a heartfelt life. After all, if that little girl is courageous enough to sit down on that bench (and I personally hope that she would!), we all can learn to be just a little braver and start chasing our dreams, one day at a time.